Several years ago, I sprained my ankle and missed a whole basketball season. At that time, the physical therapist I worked with was very specific about including proprioceptive exercises. Now I'm a basketball coach for a middle school group of girls. Is it possible to prevent ankle sprains by doing a proprioceptive training program with them?
That's a very good question. Studies have shown that proprioceptive training to help the joint regain its finely tuned sense of position does help prevent repeated ankle sprains.
But preventive measures such as taping, bracing, and proprioceptive training don't seem to help with first time sprains. These approaches seem to work best for those individuals who have already sprained their ankles at least once.
That's not to say ankle sprains can't be prevented. Researchers haven't found a foolproof method yet, but proper shoe wear, good postural alignment, and muscle strengthening may help. Flexibility is also considered important, so including a stretching program may be a good idea. Balance work makes up the final piece of prevention.
We are far from knowing everything that would help us predict who might be at risk for ankle sprains. But with the large numbers of people (from children to older adults) engaged in sports activities, injury prevention is becoming the focus of more and more studies.
Maarten D. W. Hupperets, PhD. Potential Savings of a Program to Prevent Ankle Sprain Recurrence. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. November 2010. Vol. 38. No. 11. Pp. 2194-2200.
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